50 Years of Excellence in Concrete

In 2020 the Concrete Institute of Australia celebrated its Golden Jubilee. Recognising 50 years of excellence in concrete is a mighty achievement, and the date Friday 17th April 2020 is significant, as it was 50 years to the day that the Institute was officially registered in NSW as a company limited by guarantee with an approved Memorandum and Articles of Association. However, the Institute didn’t just start on that day, the prelude to that moment took nearly twenty years.

The Formative Years – Before 1970

The Concrete Institute of Australia owes its origins to the introduction of prestress concrete in Australia. Following the introduction of this ‘new and exciting’ construction technique in Europe in the late 1930’s, and its role in the reconstruction of war torn areas, a group of Australian engineers realised its potential. This led to the first prestressed concrete structure being built in Australia – the ice tower for Warragamba Dam, which is located in south western Sydney (in those days it was country NSW), completed in 1953. This was followed by many other examples of prestressed concrete design and construction such as bridges, buildings, and jetties.

At this time the first Australian symposium on prestressed concrete was organised by the Cement and Concrete Association (C&CA) (now known as Cement Concrete Aggregates Australia). On the back of a symposium on prestress concrete, along with other events, a group of engineers came together in NSW in 1962 and founded the Australian Prestressed Concrete Group (APCG) with the backing of the C&CA. From its foundation the APCG grew and expanded into other states forming new branches in Queensland and South Australia, and expanding membership, which consisted mainly of engineers, across its two categories – Ordinary Members and Business Members. The APCG also held two conferences, one in Sydney (1965) and one in Melbourne (1967).

In March 1966, the APCG President, Mr E.M.Birkett, suggested that the APCG should “widen its objects to include concrete construction generally”. This gained further traction and in September 1967 the C&CA indicated that it was willing to support this expansion. As a result a sub-committee, comprising of some familiar names to the Institute such as Denison Campbell-Allen, Jim Robson-Scott, and Kevin Cavanagh, was formed to investigate and report on this proposal.

Part of this investigation included an examination of two overseas models of interest – the Concrete Society in the United Kingdom, and the America Concrete Institute in the USA. Whilst taking on board many ideas from both of these organisations, in the end a draft constitution was drawn up that recognised that the strength of the Institute would lie in its State Branches, whilst being supported by the local regional office of the C&CA.

On 16th December 1968 the Council of the APCG resolved to adopt a proposal to merge into the Concrete Institute of Australia and form one organisation, where membership was open to anyone with an interest in concrete construction and technology. Then, on 6th May 1969, the Annual General Meeting of the APCG was held in the Department of Main Roads Auditorium in Sydney, attended by 100 members and guests, where it was formally resolved to establish the Concrete Institute of Australia. Mr William (Bill) Brown was elected President and Mr Kevin Cavanagh was elected Secretary, with Mr Paul Mahaffey appointed as the Institute’s first Executive Officer. The inaugural meeting of Council was then subsequently held on 14th July 1969 and later that year a formal service agreement was drawn up between the CIA and C&CA, which allowed for the C&CA to provide technical and administrative services for the Institute. The Institute continued to work on the foundation laid by the APCG including maintaining membership of the Federation Internationale de la Precontrainte (FIP), and holding the first conference under the name of the CIA in Brisbane in September 1969. 

The Institute’s structure was formally recognised after the registration of the organisation on 17th April 1970, and provided for a National Council along with State Branch Committees, the first of which were formed in NSW, South Australia and Victoria, quickly followed by Queensland. Council comprised of a President, Vice President, Secretary/Treasurer and eight elected Councillors, with Councillors serving two year terms. Branch Presidents were automatically members of Council together with two non-voting Councillors nominated by C&CA. This structure provided the platform for the Concrete Institute of Australia to launch it’s beginning of a new era.

The Beginning Years 1970 – 1979

Following the 1969 AGM of the Australian Prestressed Concrete Group (APCG) it was formally resolved to establish the Concrete Institute of Australia, with Mr William (Bill) Brown elected President and Mr Kevin Cavanagh elected Secretary. The inaugural meeting of Council was then subsequently held on 14th July 1969 and the newly formed Concrete Institute of Australia began by continuing to follow the groundwork laid down by the APCG, which included a study tour of Japan in 1970, and participation at the Federation Internationale de la Precontrainte (FIP) congress in Prague.

Most importantly, on 17th April 1970 the Institute’s structure was formally recognised after the registration of the organisation as a company limited by guarantee with approved Memorandum and Articles of Association. The Institute’s structure provided for a National Council along with State Branch Committees, the first of which were formed in NSW, South Australia and Victoria, quickly followed by Queensland. Tasmania would follow suit in 1971. Council comprised of a President, Vice President, Secretary/Treasurer and eight elected Councillors, with Councillors serving two year terms. Branch Presidents were automatically members of Council together with two non-voting Councillors nominated by C&CA. To achieve balance, at least 3 Councillors were required to be Business Members and at least 3 needed to be Ordinary Members. This structure provided the platform for the Concrete Institute of Australia to launch it’s beginning of a new era. 

Institute membership was initially restricted to three grades only in 1970 – Ordinary Member, Business Member, and Honorary Member. Student Membership was also introduced not long after that. In 1974 the membership categories were changed slightly so that Ordinary Members became Individual Members and Business Members became Sustaining Members. By the end of the decade the Institute’s Annual Report noted that there were 885 Individual Members, 67 Sustaining Members, and 78 Student Members across the country.

The 1970’s saw the Institute gain a strong hold in the industry by continuing and expanding upon the technical work that was initiated by the APCG. Initially this included the publication of a Bridge Beam Manual, reports on prestressing end blocks and anchorages, and steam curing. The work on steam curing was used by Standards Australia Association for updates in CA2 Concrete in Buildings and CA35 Prestressed Concrete in 1973. It was in the early 1970’s that the Institute also produced the first Reinforced Concrete Detailing Manual which became the standard reference for tertiary institutions and design offices throughout the country.

1974 saw the formation of a technical committee to produce a recommended practice for specifying concrete. This important task ended up being expanded upon and was completed in 1979, and was published as the CIA Reference Specification for Concrete Work. This document subsequently became the reference for the Australian Building Industry Specification for concrete, and its successor, NATSPEC.

To communicate with the Members, the Institute began producing a regular Newsletter that was posted to the membership. This served the Members well in the early days, until it was expanded and renamed in 1975 as CIA News. The CIA News was also produced on a regular basis (3 or 4 times year) and the Council at that time had aspirations that the new “magazine” would one day become the journal of the Concrete Institute of Australia.

The Institute held 5 conferences in the 1970’s following the biennial timeline of the APCG and CIA conferences from the 1960’s. The 1971 conference in Adelaide was the first held outside of the eastern seaboard, and as followed by Sydney (1973), Melbourne (1975), Brisbane (1977), and Canberra (1979). The Institute was also proud to host the FIP Symposia on Short to Medium Span Bridges and Prestressed Concrete in Buildings in 1976. The symposia was attended by over 450 delegates from Australia and overseas, and continued to build upon a very important international relationship for the CIA.

In 1972, under President George Goffin, Council resolved to implement an awards scheme to coincide with the Biennial Conferences. The awards recognised high achievement in the use of concrete in buildings, bridges and engineering structures, as well as research, education and other activities. The first awards ceremony was held in 1973 in Sydney where the Tumut 3 Power Station (Concrete Structures) and work on a Progressive Strength System (Concrete Advancement) were recognised with awards.

The Institute’s “Beginning Years” were an extremely important part of the organisations development. It forged the path forward and was led by some of the concrete industry’s most influential leaders, whilst being assisted and guided by Cement Concrete Australia and its staff, in particular Kevin Cavanagh in his role as Secretary of the National Council. Many of these leaders were recognised by the end of decade with Honorary Membership, an honour role that included among others Past Presidents such as Bill Brown, Jim Robson-Scott, George Goffin, Denison Campbell-Allen and Mick Ryan.

The Developing Years 1980 – 1989

The Concrete Institute of Australia came into being in 1970 at an exciting time in the concrete construction industry.  However as the 70’s progressed several factors, both locally and globally, had significant impacts on the construction industry, resulting in large cut-backs due to inflation, and reduced levels of activity. 

As the 1970’s were coming to an end, the advent of a new decade meant that the Institute was not only maturing, but was also in a position to help foster the concrete construction industry through the challenges. The Institute could take a lead role as an industry forum to encourage and facilitate the development of concrete technology and practice in Australia. This was the main purpose for creating the Concrete Institute of Australia in 1970, and by 1980 this objective took on great importance.

In line with this the Institute began to review its objectives and activities. A strategic planning committee was formed and the work conducted here provided support and encouragement for the Council at the start of the 1980’s. After first publishing the strategic plan in CIA News, the committee chairman Mr Geoff Markham presented the final plan to the members at the 1985 biennial conference in Melbourne. The Institute’s Strategic Plan was gradually implemented and this included initiatives such as the introduction of a ‘ministerial’ type system of responsibilities for elected Councillors, the appointment of the Institute’s first Administrative Officer, the introduction of the Corporate Membership category aimed at larger organisations, and the preparation of a glossy brochure to promote membership and the benefits of being involved with the CIA.

During the 1980’s the Institute continued to hold its conference biennially and these continued to be well participated and attended as the industry began to see signs of improvement. The conference was shared around the country starting in Adelaide in 1981, where, for the first time, a call for papers was put out to members. This led to a more diverse program and quickly became an accepted part of future conferences including those that followed in the 1980’s such as Sydney (1983), Melbourne (1985), Brisbane (1987) and Adelaide again in 1989.

The Institute’s Awards for Excellence in Concrete continued to prosper, with 28 awards handed out over the decade to recognize excellence in concrete buildings and structures, and for advancement of the material. Some of Australia’s iconic structures were recognised during the 1980’s including the new Parliament House and the Australian National Gallery in Canberra, the Gateway Bridge in Brisbane, the Melbourne Tennis Centre and the West Gate Freeway in Melbourne, and the State Library and Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney.

The State Branches began to thrive and throughout the decade regional groups in Canberra, Townsville, Newcastle, and Geelong were formed. A significant addition to the Institute family occurred in 1988 with the official formation of the Western Australia Branch meaning that the organisation could truly be recognised as a national entity. There was also a greater interaction with students and the concrete canoe races and high strength concrete cylinder competitions proved to be very popular. 

Globally the Institute continued its close relationship with the Federation Internationale de la Precontrainte (FIP), with a number of members actively involved in their various technical commissions. 

CIA News continued to be the main communication vehicle for the Institute to the members, and as the decade progressed, the publication expanded its technical content. Technical publications continued to be a major focus for the Institute with a number of recommended practices of significance to the industry published throughout the decade. In particular, the first edition of the Reinforcement Detailing Handbook was published by the Institute on behalf of the Steel Reinforcement Promotion Group. Led by chief author and convener, Brian Ferguson, this document has been used by civil engineering students and professional engineers ever since.

One of the greatest achievements of the Institute during the decade was the publication of the reference book, 200 Years of Concrete in Australia. Produced by the Concrete Institute of Australia to coincide with the bi-centenary in 1988, the committee, led by future National President, Jack Wynhoven, produced a document that continues to be used as an important guide and reference today.

The Institute’s developing years helped define the organization as a resilient body that could adapt to the needs of the members and the industry, despite the changes and challenges that may exist. The difficult days from the 1970’s went well into the 80’s but throughout this time the Institute was well led by Dr Mark Symons, John Ferris, Brendan Corcoran, Geoff Markham, John Fenwick, and Jack Wynhoven who provided an insight to what was to come in the 1989 Annual Report:

“The Institute’s State Committees and Regional Groups have started to prepare themselves for the challenges of the 1990’s, namely infrastructure upgrade, environmental limitations and quality managements, all against a background of more demanding economic conditions. Our technical meetings and seminars will reflect this.” 

The Maturing Years 1990-1999

By 1990 the Concrete Institute of Australia had shown itself to be a resilient body that could adapt to the needs of the members and the industry despite the changes and challenges that it had already been exposed to. From its early beginnings in the 60’s and 70’s, through the difficult days that began in the late 1970’s and went well into the 80’s, the Institute come of age in 1990 and like most 21 years olds it thought it had learnt a few things along the way. However, with age comes greater expectation and responsibility, it the Institute was to discover this as it began to mature. 

The Institute started 1990 with Jack Wynhoven at the helm as National President, who had finished the previous decade by saying – “The Institute’s State Committees and Regional Groups have started to prepare themselves for the challenges of the 1990’s, namely infrastructure upgrade, environmental limitations and quality managements, all against a background of more demanding economic conditions. Our technical meetings and seminars will reflect this.” 

Jack would be well followed in this role by Paul Mahaffey, Jim Forbes, Mike Fordyce, John Ashby, Richard Choy and David Beal who would all build upon the legacy left by their predecessors, but also navigate the Institute through some unchartered waters.

By the 1990’s the Institute had become well known for the quality of its biennial conference, not just locally but around the world. Whilst the Institute shared the conference around the country throughout the decade, including Sydney (1991 and 1999), Melbourne (1993), Brisbane (1995) and Adelaide (1997), it also hosted international conferences such as Concrete for the Nineties (1990) with CSIRO, the RILEM conference in Melbourne in 1992, and the International FIP Congress at the 1995 conference in Brisbane. As we were to see, the nineties was when the Concrete Institute of Australia was really seen on a world stage.

During the middle of the decade, as part of the detailed strategic plan developed by the Institute’s Federal Council, work began on increasing the profile and the position of the organisation. As part of this strategy a logo was developed to provide a new corporate identity. The logo was designed to portray the Institute as dynamic and professional organisation, moving forward with innovation in technology and application. It’s colours encapsulated the use of water, sand & aggregates, and cement to create concrete, as well embellishing a symbol that spoke of knowledge transfer through the member base and industry.

The Institute’s flagship communication medium, the magazine, was also ready for a change to enhance this new profile. Starting the decade as the old CIA News, by end of the 90’s it had become Concrete in Australia (changed in 1995) with a colour cover, increased news and activity content, project case studies, promotion for members, and of course, technical papers. Another significant change here was the transfer of editorial and publishing work from a team of volunteers to Engineers Australia’s media team (later to become Engineers Media).

With the heightened awareness of profiling the importance of the Institute within the industry came a vision to increase the value of the Institute’s Awards for Excellence in Concrete program. In 1991 Federal Council introduced the Kevin Cavanagh Medal. This medal was to be awarded to a project or entry that was deemed to have exhibited excellence in concrete beyond expectation, in recognition of the same sort of contribution Kevin Cavanagh had made to the Institute. The first recipient of this award was for the Immersed Tunnel Units in the Sydney Harbour Tunnel project (1991) and during the 90’s was also awarded to the Wandoo Oilfield Development in Western Australia (1997) and the Sydney Airport Soft Ground Tunnel (1999). A further 30 general awards for excellence were handed out across the decade.

The State Branches continued to thrive and provide regular technical information and education through local seminars and meetings. Interaction at a student level also continued to thrive with greater focus on competitions such as high strength beam tests and concrete canoe races. Technical publications continued to be a major focus for the Institute and by the end of the decade there was a large suite of Recommended Practices and Current Practice Notes available.

The 90’s really established the Institute on an international stage. Whilst it had always had a close relationship with the Federation Internationale de la Precontrainte (FIP), with a number of members actively involved, it wasn’t until this decade that the Institute embraced that opportunity for the benefit of its members. In 1993 the American Concrete Institute President, Dr George Hoff, visited the Concrete Institute of Australia, and by December 1994, under National President Jim Forbes, the Institute became the first Affiliated International Society member of ACI. There was also a connection with RILEM (The International Union of Laboratories and Experts in Construction Materials, Systems and Structures) and by the end of the 90’s the new International Federation for Structural Concrete, fib, was born via a merger of FIP and CEB. From then and to this day the Institute has been the fib member group in Australia. Throughout the 90’s a number of Australian practitioners and projects were also recognised internationally through their association with the Concrete Institute of Australia. This included Past Presidents, John Ashby and Mick Ryan, being made Honorary Members of the ACI in 1992 and 1996 respectively.

Towards the end of the 90’s change was certainly afoot. Technology was rapidly increasing and use of the internet and email was becoming more the norm rather than the exception (by 1999 50% of Institute members had access to the internet). It was also a time when the CCAA began to restructure, and with this came a change in direction with respect to its involvement with the CIA. It would be through some strong leadership and forward thinking that Institute’s maturing years would help it navigate through some unchartered waters in the early 2000’s. In his Presidents Column for Concrete in Australia in November 1999, David Beal noted “One of our priorities in the next two years will be the retention and expansions of our membership”. Never a truer word has been said as the Institute was about to head down a very challenging time.

The New Millennium 2000 – 2009

At the beginning of the year 2000 it was recognised the Institute was facing some challenging times and National President at this time, David Beal, played an instrumental part in addressing these. In a focused manner he methodically travelled around Australia and overseas to secure support for the Institute and to identify strategies to arrest the ongoing financial concerns and set the Institute on an upward path. He invested his own time and funds to achieve the necessary outcomes to secure the future of the organisation. One of the strategies he introduced was the introduction of a new Company Membership structure, allowing for 5 levels of hierarchy, using the model adopted by the UK Concrete Society. Hanson then became the first Platinum Members in 2004, and Academic Membership and Young Individual Membership were then introduced in 2006.

Relatively quickly, the Institute’s focus, activities and financial security strengthened, setting the foundation for the impressive growth and development of the organisation through the early 2000s up to now. The National Presidents who followed David throughout the decade, Kevin Abrams (2001-2003), Steve Evans (2003-2005), Daksh Baweja (2005-2007), and Tony Kinlay (2007-2009), continued this strategy, which also led to the first Chief Executive Officer of the Concrete Institute of Australia, Mr Ian Booth, being appointed in 2003 to rubber stamp this new direction and coming of age of the organisation.

This new direction included a renewed approach to the biennial conference. In 2001 the 20th biennial conference of the Concrete Institute of Australia was the first to be held in Western Australia. It also reinforced the Institute’s new global presence, hosting a regional fib Symposium and being officially supported by the American Concrete Institute. Concrete 2001 “Adding Value Through Innovation” set the benchmark for the preceding conferences during the decade including Concrete 03 “Concrete in the Third Millennium” in Brisbane, Concrete 05 “Issues, Opportunities & Innovations” in Melbourne which was held in conjunction with RILEM Week, Concrete 07 “Concrete for the Future” in Adelaide, and Concrete Solutions 09 “Adding Value in Changing Climates” in Sydney. As the decade progressed, the number of delegates, papers, sponsors and exhibitors also grew, as well as attracting several world class key note presenters from all over the world.

The Awards for Excellence in Concrete continued to build throughout the decade, despite not being run in 2005. The Kevin Cavanagh Medal was awarded four times throughout the 2000’s for the Scientia Building, UNSW (2001), 2.N.D House, Cape Schank, Victoria (2003), Sea Cliff Bridge, NSW (2007) and the National Portrait Gallery, ACT (2009). In recognition of the changing times, the first ever Sustainability Medal was also awarded in 2009 for the Climate Responsive House Design submitted by Cement Concrete Aggregates Australia (CCAA).

2003 also saw the first National Engineering Bursary awarded. The program allowed for final year post graduate students studying engineering, chemistry, materials science, building science and other relevant subjects which contribute to the research knowledge base of concrete in Australia, to submit their thesis on concrete and/or cement based products and processes. The first recipient of the Bursary was Dr Rebecca Gravina of the University of Adelaide for her work on “Non-Linear overload behaviour and ductility of reinforced concrete flexural members containing 500 MPa grade reinforcing steel”.

Internationally, the Institute’s stature continued to develop. Past National President, Jim Forbes, was appointed President of fib in 2003 and the Scientia Building won an fib Oustanding Structure Award in 2002. By the end of the decade the Institute would officially be the fib’s nominated representative group in Australia. Further affilaitions were formed with international groups such as the Concrete Society (UK), the New Zealand Concrete Society, and the Concrete Society (South Africa), whilst the American Concrete Institute held Symposiums in Perth and Sydney in 2004 as part of their 100 year birthday celebrations.

The state branches continued to evolve, and with an increased onus on event sponsorship, seminar attendances grew, as well as becoming more reliant on the use of computers to present. The new millennium also saw the first female State President elected, Deborah Smee in NSW, followed by Dr Liza O’Moore of Queensland becoming the first elected National Executive member as Vice-President in 2009.

The Education strategy also began to change during the 2000’s with a shift in learning behaviour, requirements, and technology. A national seminar program was first introduced in 2001 and this developed ver the course of the decade where over 500 people attended workshops around the country on AS3600 in 2009. Powerpoint presentations changed the way that people presented, documents and publications became available in both hard copy and soft copy, as the CD-ROM and USB became more prevalent.

The Institute’s journal, Concrete in Australia, also evolved over the decade, however remained the flag ship communication format for members. It transitioned to full colour in 2005, and by the end of 2009 was also available electronically.

From an operational perspective, the Institute began to grow and subsequently moved into its own premises at Rhodes in 2006. This period saw new staff and structures implemented to allow the Institute to grow and keep up with demand. By the end of the decade the Institute would have a fully functioning web site and state of the art data base in operation, with publications and resources available electronically and the majority of communication taking place via email.

The New Era 2010 – 2019

As the Concrete Institute of Australia moved into the second decade of the 21st century, it did so with vigour and an appetite for change. Our National Presidents during this decade are testament to how the concrete industry in Australia was changing and evolving. Fred Andrews-Phaedonos (2009-2011) led the Institute into the new era and he was succeeded by the first female National President, Liza O’Moore (2011-2013). Liza was then followed by Doug Jenkins (2013-2015), Michael van Koeverden (2015-2017) and Con Komselis (2017-2019), before Shan Kumar (2019-present) took the reins to head into 2020 and beyond. This honour role reflects our industries diversity around ethnicity and gender and represents the Institute’s broad church of members from research and academia, design, specification, construction, and material supply.

However, difficult times lay in store in the early parts of this decade with the great financial crisis (GFC). Like most industries this had a serious impact on the construction industry and meant that several Institute members would struggle, resulting in some challenges for the CIA.

Despite the early financial concerns, the Institute’s biennial conference continued to be the cornerstone of the organisation. In 2011 the 25th biennial conference of the Concrete Institute of Australia returned to Perth. Concrete 2011 was titled “Building a Sustainable Future”, a theme that continues to resonate with the concrete industry today. With the GFC in mind, Concrete 2013, the first to be held on the Gold Coast, took on an important role to provide the Institute with not just a great conference but some financial security. Through diligent planning and great passion and effort, it achieved both objectives. It also provided the Institute confidence to move the conference onto a global stage and Concrete 2015 “Concrete Innovations: Research Into Practice” was held in conjunction with the 69th RILEM Week, Concrete 2017 “Advances in Concrete Materials and Structures” in Adelaide was held in conjunction with the 3rd International Congress on Concrete Durability, and Concrete 2019 in Sydney, “Concrete in Practice: Progress Through Knowledge”, involved several high profile American Concrete Institute members in all facets of the event. The arrival of the Institute on the world concrete stage was no more evident however when the Concrete Institute of Australia hosted the 5th International Federation of Structural Concrete (fib) Congress in Melbourne in October 2018. The week long congress of meetings, technical papers, presentations, exhibition, and networking attracted over 700 delegates, of which more than 50% were from overseas, and was a resounding success.

The Awards for Excellence in Concrete continued to thrive and by the end of the decade would take on a new direction. Two magnificent structures were recognized with the Kevin Cavanagh Medal, both from Queensland – the Gateway Bridge Upgrade in 2011 and the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum in 2013. Then in 2017 the Institute implemented a new initiative, awarding a Medallion for Excellence in Concrete in 5 categories – Residential, Commercial, Infrastructure, Repair and Rehabilitation, and Technology and Innovation. The winners of these categories then went in the running to win the prestigious Kevin Cavanagh Trophy, naturally made of concrete. The first ever winner of this magnificent concrete trophy was for the entry titled “Prefabricated Concrete for the Song School”, an amazing project involving the design and manufacture of slender precast concrete elements in Adelaide, transported, and erected in Perth. This was followed in 2019 with the amazing Anzac Centenary Memorial Project in Sydney.

Coming out of the GFC, many organisations began to review how and when their staff could attend professional development and learning opportunities. This resulted in a shift in the way the Concrete Institute of Australia, and many other associations, developed and presented their range of courses and seminars. The full day roadshow seminars began to lose popularity unless it involved high profile speakers, such as Professor Ken Hover from the USA on the “Why Concrete Does the Things It Does” 2016 tour, important changes and updates to Australian Standards like AS3600, or a combination of both such as the Shear Design roadshow in 2014 with Professor’s Michael Collins and Denis Mitchell. The Institute needed to embrace the electronic learning age and as developed an online learning platform called “eConcrete”. This included short 20 minute presentations on a number of different topics, live recordings of face-to-face events, and up to 6 hours of concrete related lectures and presentations that could be watched on demand at the viewers leisure. In fact, in 2019 the Institute “live streamed” it’s first technical events on Strut-and-Tie Design for delegates to be able to access anywhere around the country and this led to a huge increase in regional industry members dialing in.

This period of time also saw the Institute embark on an ambitious program to develop a suite of durability documents. This was on the back of a need to have a dedicated guideline for durability requirements that addressed all scenarios. After a series of face-to-face seminars and workshops across the country to outline this plan and address questions and needs of the members and the industry, the Z7 Durability series was born. Containing seven different parts, the Durability technical committee, initially chaired and driven by Frank Papworth, and then followed by Rodney Paull, would not only develop documents for Australian conditions, but take their work to international durability committees such as ACI and fib. These documents are now seen by global experts as benchmark guidelines for durability around the world.

Operationally, the Institute continued to evolve. Ironically, the organization moved into a new office in North Sydney, just down the road from where it all began in 1969. Former Institute member, David Millar, took on the CEO role in 2014 and with the creation of a full time Membership Services Manager position to support the growing needs of members, and the development of national technical, education, and marketing roles, the Institute was able to continue meeting industry and member requirements, as volunteer time and support began to reduce due to increased work pressure. The mantra “One Vision, One Mission, One Institute” was born as the Institute took on a truly national and international role in the concrete construction industry.

At the end of 2019 the Institute was celebrating a particularly successful year. Interest in participation on state and national committees was high; Concrete 2019 had broken records in attendance, sponsorship, and technical papers; attendance at technical seminars, site tours, and networking events was at an all-time high; membership numbers were on the rise; and preparation for the Golden Jubilee 50 year celebrations was in full swing. What was to come however was not on anyone’s radar, and would lead to one of the most challenging years the world has ever experienced.

The Next Step – 2020 and beyond…

As the Institute started it’s journey on the next 50 years, it was interesting to reflect on how it had evolved. From its humble beginnings it now had state committees throughout the country, several regional committees, and at any one time 30+ other active working committees, supported by full time and part time staff. Dr Shan Kumar, our 27th National President, was following in Bill Brown’s footsteps, and the 5th edition of AS3600 (2018) Concrete Structures, first compiled in 1988 with the merging of CA2 and CA35 (known as AS1480 and AS1481 respectively from the mid-1970s) was available. The Institute also had several agreements and relationships with international groups such as fib, ACI, and RILEM, and had presented awards for excellence in concrete to hundreds of worthy recipients around the country. Education and professional development had also evolved with face-to-face seminars and hard copy publications supplemented by online electronic learning modules and presentations to meet changing demands, as well as communication via not only Concrete in Australia, but email, social media and electronic marketing.

To mark the change in time Concrete in Australia took on a new look and the Institute embarked on a year of celebration to recognise the Golden Jubilee. Then, in March 2020, the world took a different direction with the widespread coronavirus pandemic COVID-19. Very quickly the door was shut on all our events and meetings and we headed into a very uncertain time. Within a short space of time the country went into lockdown, and from a Concrete Institute of Australia perspective we had to come up with a plan to keep our members engaged, stay true to our mission of promoting and developing excellence in concrete, and work out a way to recognise our Golden Jubilee.

First step was to keep providing regular technical content for professional development. Within 3 weeks of cancelling technical seminars for 2020 they developed a format to run these as technical webinars. Using the existing technical program they rearranged things to suit and on 16 April 2020 ran the first live Webinar, which has now become a weekly feature of the Institute’s educational program.

They also worked out a way to celebrate our birthday on Friday 17 April – by raising a glass to the CIA via a number of Zoom meetings in the sanctuary of our homes during lock down. Humbled by the number of people who chose to raise a glass and join us for our Golden Jubilee, both locally and overseas, everyone had a great time.

The CIA video was also launched that recognises the past, acknowledges the present, and looks to the future. It is a wonderful reminder of why the Institute exists, the important relationships they have with allied industry groups and international affiliates, how professional development and learning is changing, where the concrete construction is heading, and the diverse group of people now involved.

In February 2021 the Institute then made one of the hardest decisions in its history when it determined to transition the biennial conference Concrete 2021, scheduled to be held in Perth in September, to a fully virtual event. Despite restrictions being lifted around the country, the uncertainty and inconsistent approach to the pandemic by each state meant that organisation could not proceed with any confidence. The transition to virtual turned into a blessing as a large number of Institute members were in lockdown during September 2021 and interstate and overseas was not feasible. As a result, there were150 pre-recorded presentations and 40 live Q&A forums with delegates from 15 different countries. The delegates attended 11,500 sessions in total, downloaded 1,100 resources, visited our exhibition booths 5,000 times, and engaged in 5,500 chats between themselves – statistics that could never before be drawn from a conference. The Awards for Excellence were also held online and the Kevin Cavanagh Trophy was take out by the Chau Chak Wing Museum at the virtual ceremony. The conference was, by all measures, a great success.

As 2021-2023 President Sheard Northey prepares to step into Shan Kumar’s shoes, we look forward with confidence to what the next 50 years brings knowing that we have been innovative, adaptable and flexible during such challenging times.

To be continued….